About

Heather is an award-winning author, keynote speaker, and nationally recognized thought leader on the subjects of relationships and interpersonal connection. An outdoor enthusiast and avid traveler, she’d never let her passport expire buuuut cannot in good conscience vouch for the date on any milk cartons in her fridge. When she isn’t exploring new mountain ranges and national parks with friends and family, Heather resides in Westerville, Ohio accepting frequent Scrabble and Wordle challenges from her three wonderful adult children.

My Story and Mission

While I count high-altitude views as a worthy pay off for extra steps up a mountain trail, when connection is the goal, extra steps are often an unnecessary extension of the wrong part of a life journey. We’re hardwired for connection. When there’s a gap, at home or at work, the impact can be vast. It can be contagious. Many of our most troubling social and workplace issues have disconnection and fractured communication at the root. Real connection can be a moving target, requiring continual adjustments. My mission is simple: to save you or your organization a few steps.

Headlines, statistics, and lived experiences tell the story: our personal and professional lives are plagued by glitchy communication, fractured relationships, and perforated communities that are ill-equipped for the increasing rise of loneliness. As individuals struggle against isolation and personal loneliness in a society that continues to redefine how work, home, school, and personal dreams should fit together, businesses and organizations everywhere are struggling with a big question: How do we engage employees and members? After years of relentless multi-tasking, our humanity is showing.

On paper, we’re more connected than we’ve ever been, but studies reveal that most of us don’t feel that way. So, how can that be? After all, you’re reading this sentence on a machine that can connect you with ideas and people the world over. We can access the lives of friends and strangers on a constant scroll, watch news unfold in real time, and dive into millions of video and audio streams with a single click.

Many of the long-term effects of our digital dependence weren’t immediately clear. As with the negative effects of aerosol sprays and nicotine, society didn’t start to feel this gradual slide away from conversation towards stunted communication until we were well-entrenched in our habits. Unfortunately, this reliance on digital interaction, paired with the endless options of a fast-paced society, leaves significantly less room for human connection.

I’ve been studying the phenomenon of disconnection for over a decade now. Make no mistake, this was a selfish essential. My deep dive into human connection and relationship research was born of a need to address my own challenges. Even Cabernet Coaches®, the women’s social resource I founded in 2013, sprung out of my own deep need for stronger relationships. The fact that so many other women shared this need was a confirmation of both the research and the unfortunate gap in so many communities today. The increased choice and informational access that digital media provide are incredible societal tools, but we ourselves are not machines. None of us is immune to the effects of pairing a breakneck, on-demand lifestyle with a life transition or two.

In the years since, I’ve mined emerging psych/social research and interviewed hundreds, if not thousands, of men and women in my quest to better understand our shared modern experience. Yes, we’re complex beings, but we make very predictable mistakes. I’m a fan of repurposing those missteps. I mean, why waste a perfectly good mistake?

You can read parts of my personal story in The Friendship Upgrade and Date Like a Grownup. Many of the particularly poignant and funny bits have been incorporated into my public and organizational talks. Most Thursdays at 5:30 p.m. ET, I also offer insights on KTOE, KOWZ-AM, KSUM, and KMH as the resident relationship expert. We discuss everything from worst dates and family traditions to headlines and trends in national media interviews to strategy options for helping victims of abuse. It is my hope that this resource can help listeners, viewers, and readers as we all navigate life’s challenges together.

As far as upcoming projects… I have a few! In between speaking events and interviews, I’m working on a new book, a couple of workbooks, and a podcast: Your Room, Your Elephant. Sign up for notifications and periodic tips on connection. Lastly, I am (of course) also planning my hiking trips for 2022. Because we can’t connect well with others unless we create the space to connect with ourselves first.

Recent Articles

Testimonials & Reviews

We had the amazing opportunity to bring Heather to speak at an OhioHealth retreat focused on well-being and rejuvenation. She was an inspiration and a catalyst to help our staff articulate their own feelings of isolation. Since her talk, I have noticed a deliberate effort by our team to find connection and fulfillment in our “real time” experiences. I recommend both of her books (Date Like a Grownup and The Friendship Upgrade) and Heather herself as a speaker and discussion facilitator to any group or organization seeking to grow relationship and community amongst its members.

Emma Eileen Shihab, JD; Manager, Epicare Ambulatory, Beacon, MyChart & Research applications

As an Executive in Human Resources, I find most of my professional energy spent on educating others about the nuances of meaningful relationship building. Most often, the primary impediment is a lack of self-awareness, but Heather Dugan has boiled that conundrum down in a way that anyone can understand and immediately begin to act upon. Plain and simple, this is a good read on both a personal and professional level for men and women alike.

Jim McGannon, Senior Vice President, Human Resources & Organizational Development at Sarnova

Heather Dugan brings a rare combination of insight, passion, life experiences and exceptional communication skills to individuals hungry for meaningful connections ...(and) any organization that claims to care about people and the health and productivity of its workforce.

Dennis Hetzel, Executive Director, Ohio Newspaper Association, Columbus Ohio; President, Ohio Coalition for Open Government; award-winning author of Killing the Curse and Season of Lies.

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